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Brooks: Top five 2015 NFL Draft prospects by position

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With the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine in the rear-view mirror, here is a look at the top five prospects at each position to give you a peek at some of the conversations that are taking place in draft rooms across the league.

Quarterbacks

1. Jameis Winston, Florida State
2. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
3. Brett Hundley, UCLA
4. Bryce Petty, Baylor
5. Sean Mannion, Oregon State

Rise: Sean Mannion (NR)
Fall: Garrett Grayson (5)

Winston alleviated some of the concerns regarding his immaturity and character with his strong performance in interview sessions at the NFL Scouting Combine. He impressed evaluators with his high football IQ and natural leadership skills. With a solid on-field performance that showcased his strong arm and pocket passing skills, Winston took a big step toward claiming the No.1 spot at the position. Mariota continues to impress scouts with his overall athleticism and passing skills, but his quiet demeanor leads to questions about his ability to lead a veteran-laden team. Hundley and Petty continue to duke it out for the No. 3 spot, with each displaying enough athleticism and arm talent to make plays inside or outside the pocket.


» Daniel Jeremiah's top 50 prospects for 2015 NFL Draft


Running Backs

1. Todd Gurley, Georgia
2. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
3. Tevin Coleman, Indiana
4. Duke Johnson, Miami (Fla.)
5. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

Rise: Ameer Abdullah (NR)
Fall: Jay Ajayi (5)

Gurley's injury will lead some teams to downgrade him a bit during the pre-draft process, but he is clearly the most complete back in the class. If teams feel good about his progress over the next few months, he could be the first running back taken in the draft despite needing a redshirt season as a rookie. Gordon is an explosive runner with outstanding speed and quickness. He didn't light up the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine, but his burst and acceleration stand out on tape. Johnson and Abdullah are intriguing options as "change of pace" backs.

Wide receiver

1. Amari Cooper, Alabama
2. Kevin White, West Virginia
3. DeVante Parker, Louisville
4. Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma
5. Jaelen Strong, Arizona State

Rise: Dorial Green-Beckham (5)
Fall: Jaelen Strong (4)

There's a growing faction of scouts in the NFL who believe White is the next great thing at the position based on his size-speed combination and exceptional ball skills. He put on a show at the NFL combine, and several teams view him as the top player in the group. Cooper confirmed his silky-smooth game with a strong showing in Indianapolis. He is the most pro-ready receiver of the group, and his impeccable route-running skills could make him a star in the NFL from Day 1. Green-Beckham's immense talent and potential will lead several teams to overlook his character issues on draft day. If he can keep his nose clean, Green-Beckham has the ability to develop into a Plaxico Burress-type playmaker as a pro.

Tight ends

1. Maxx Williams, Minnesota
2. Clive Walford, Miami (Fla.)
3. Jesse James, Penn State
4. Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State
5. Nick O'Leary, Florida State

Rise: Clive Walford (4), Jesse James (5)
Fall: Jeff Heuerman (3), Nick O'Leary (2)

Williams is a sneaky athlete with exceptional hands and ball skills. Teams searching for a Jason Witten-like pass catcher will find him attractive as a borderline Day 1 prospect. James is poised to make a climb up the charts following his strong performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. He has the potential to develop into a dominant red zone weapon with his size and "post up" ability. O'Leary lacks the prototypical traits to play as a traditional tight end, but he is such a natural pass catcher and playmaker that a creative offensive coordinator will find a way to use his skills.

2015 NFL DRAFT

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Offensive tackles

1. Andrus Peat, Stanford
2. La'el Collins, LSU
3. Brandon Scherff, Iowa
4. Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
5. T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh

Rise: Andrus Peat (4), La'el Collins (3)
Fall: Brandon Scherff (1), Cedric Ogbuehi (2)

The 2015 class lacks a franchise tackle prospect, but Peat is certainly making a compelling case to evaluators that he has the tools to play the marquee position as a pro. He is as technically sound as any player at the position, yet he also possesses the size, strength and balance to handle power rushers off the edge. Collins and Schreff might be best suited to play inside as pros, but each displays enough athleticism and agility to start their careers on the outside at right tackle. Clemmings is a better athlete than player at this point, but his intriguing physical traits could help him develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber player early in his career.

Guards/centers

1. A.J. Cann, South Carolina
2. Cameron Erving, Florida State
3. Laken Tomlinson, Duke
4. Hroniss Grasu, Oregon
5. Tre Jackson, Florida State

Rise: Laken Tomlinson (NR), Tre Jackson (NR)
Fall: Hroniss Grasu (3), Reese Dismukes (4), Josue Matias (5)

Cann is a standout interior blocker with the size, strength and power to control the point of attack. Erving made the move from left tackle to center in the middle of the season, yet looks like a seasoned vet at the position. Tomlinson has been a steady riser up the charts after impressing scouts with his play at the Senior Bowl and delivering a strong performance at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Defensive ends

1. Leonard Williams, USC
2. Shane Ray, Missouri
3. Dante Fowler, Florida
4. Randy Gregory, Nebraska
5. Arik Armstead, Oregon

Rise: Shane Ray (3), Dante Fowler (4), Arik Armstead (NR)
Fall: Randy Gregory (2), Nate Orchard (5)

Williams is the No. 1 prospect in the 2015 draft class. He has all of the athletic attributes scouts covet in a dominant defender (size, length and athleticism), yet he is just scratching the surface of his immense potential as a 20-year-old kid. Fowler shocked scouts with his explosiveness and athleticism in drills at the NFL Scouting Combine. He is a violent hitter on tape and his surprising athleticism could make him a disruptive force as a hybrid defender in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. Gregory is a natural playmaker capable of creating chaos as an edge defender. However, teams must decide if he is better served to play from an upright position based on his slender frame and questionable strength.

Defensive tackles

1. Danny Shelton, Washington
2. Eddie Goldman, Florida State
3. Malcom Brown, Texas
4. Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma
5. Michael Bennett, Ohio State

Rise: Jordan Phillips (5)
Fall: Michael Bennett (4)

Shelton is a big space eater with size, strength and power to control the point of attack. Goldman is a talented interior defender capable of playing as a nose tackle or 3-technique in any scheme. Brown could rise up the charts when teams take a long, hard look at his play against the run. Phillips is an athletic defensive tackle with the quickness and athleticism to wreak havoc on opponents as a 1- or 3-technique in a movement-based scheme.

Inside linebackers

1. Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
2. Denzel Perryman, Miami (Fla.)
3. Eric Kendricks, UCLA
4. Stephone Anthony, Clemson
5. Ramik Wilson, Georgia

McKinney is a hard-hitting "Mike" linebacker with the physical skills and intangibles to develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber player early in his career. Perryman is a big hitter with outstanding instincts and awareness. Teams will ding him for his lack of height and explosive athleticism, but his game tape reveals a dominant player within the tackle-to-tackle box. Kendricks isn't a household name, but scouts are smitten with his instincts and playmaking skills. After impressing evaluators with his speed, agility and movement skills in positional drills at NFL Scouting Combine, he could make a late surge up the charts as a potential top-40 player.

Outside linebackers

1. Vic Beasley, Clemson
2. Shaq Thompson, Washington
3. Alvin "Bud" Dupree, Kentucky
4. Paul Dawson, TCU
5. Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington

Beasley is the most explosive pass rusher in the draft. He displays exceptional first-step quickness and acceleration, while also showing the balance and body control to "run the hump" off the edge. Following his impressive display of speed, strength and power at a heavier weight at the NFL Scouting Combine, Beasley is strong candidate to come off the board as a top-15 selection. Dupree's ridiculous performance in Indianapolis will entice a team to view him as a potential double-digit sack artist as a pro, but skeptics wonder why his athletic traits didn't lead to better production at Kentucky. Thompson and Dawson have some work to do after disappointing performances in Indianapolis. Dawson, in particular, must show evaluators that he has enough athleticism to thrive at the next level.

Cornerbacks

1. Marcus Peters, Washington
2. Trae Waynes, Michigan State
3. Jalen Collins, LSU
4. Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest
5. Ronald Darby, Florida State

Rise: Ronald Darby (NR)
Fall: P.J. Williams (5)

Peters is the most talented cover corner in the class, but his lack of speed and explosiveness could allow others to supplant him from the No.1 spot on draft day. While the tape suggests he could develop into an Aqib Talib-like playmaker as a pro, he has to post a better 40 time to convince evaluators that he should be the first cornerback taken on draft day. Waynes is an impressive athlete with all of the physical traits needed to thrive as a No. 1 corner as a pro. He is a standout bump-and-run defender, yet he displays the footwork and movement skills to be an effective "off" corner. Collins is latest LSU defensive back to make his way into the league. He possesses the prototypical size and athletic traits that scouts covet in "lockdown" corners. Darby's speed and explosiveness will lead scouts to view him the No. 1 nickel corner in the draft.

Safeties

1. Landon Collins, Alabama
2. Gerod Holliman, Louisville
3. Derron Smith, Fresno State
4. Damarious Randall, Arizona State
5. Anthony Harris, Virginia

Collins is the most complete safety that's entered the NFL in years. He is a rock-solid box defender with the instincts, ball skills and cover ability to play tight ends and slot receivers in space. Holliman is one of the most polarizing prospects in the class. He is a legitimate ball hawk capable of producing game-changing turnovers, yet he is a marginal run defender with suspect tackling skills. Scouts question his toughness and desire as a hitter, which makes it tough to sell him as a Day 2 prospect in some meeting rooms.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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